What are tiles made of?

There are many different types of tiles and what they are made of does impact how they can be used and how they should be looked after. We want to break it down into simple talk for you.

Manmade vs. Natural Stone

Sometimes it's hard to tell whether a product is manmade or is a natural stone, because the design of manmade products are now so advanced. 

It is important to understand what your tile is made from because generally natural stones require a lot more maintenance and care.

 Natural stone is far more porous than manmade ceramic and porcelain tiles. This means that the surface of the tile will absorb any moisture on the surface, whether that is water or red wine and that can lead to staining of the natural stone.

Most ceramic or porcelain tiles have a glazed surface which provides the design but also creates a completely closed, non-porous finish and water or spills will sit on the surface of the tile. Unglazed porcelains don't have the same glazing on the top of the tile, but they are made with raw materials that have a very very low porosity compared with natural stone, and they are stain resistant.

To protect your natural stone tiles we recommend having a professional seal the tiles at the time of installation. This will likely have to be maintained every few years depending on how much use the room has had. Specific cleaning products should also be chosen to ensure they will not damage your stone.


Natural Stone

Natural Stone is formed over time by water, minerals and lava. Some stones like travertine, are created by the slow accumulation and layering of materials. Other stones, like marble, are formed when rock is transformed by extreme pressure and temperature. 

The beauty of natural stone comes from the unique variations in colour and veining. Because it is made by nature, no two tiles are the same, and there is a luxurious depth and finish to the surface. There is a good reason why lots of manmade tiles are created to replicate the beauty of natural stone.

To create natural stone tiles, giant blocks are cut from quarries and then large slabs are cut from the blocks using diamond coated saws. 

The finish of natural stones can be honed, polished or textured, and all finishes come from the way the slab surface is processed in the factory, rather than anything being applied or pressed into the tile.

A honed finish is smooth and non reflective. Polished stone has a gloss finish and textured finishes include hammered, bocc or structured surfaces. 

Refer to this related article for an explanation on common types of natural stone.

Manmade / Ceramic Tiles

Manmade tiles are usually referred to as Ceramic or Porcelain tiles. A ceramic is actually any of the various hard, brittle, heat-resistant and corrosion-resistant materials made by shaping and then firing a nonmetallic mineral, such as clay, at a high temperature, which includes porcelain.

Therefore, ceramic tiles can be considered a catch all term for porcelain and non-porcelain tiles.

Porcelain tiles are made with clay that has less impurities and are fired at hotter temperatures and are therefore harder and have less water absorption. Usually non-porcelain tiles are referred to as ceramic tiles.

Most floor tiles these days are generally made from porcelain due to the stength, low water absorbtion and therefore stain resistance from this material. This makes them perfect for floors in your home and in public spaces.

Porcelain tiles may or may not be called full bodied porcelain tiles, or through-body or colour-body. When they are, it means the colour on the tile surface continues through the body of the tile so chips and scratches to the surface aren't obvious. Sometimes an additional pattern is inkjet printed onto the surface of the tile for design. These tiles can stand up to heavy traffic in public spaces.

Some porcelain tiles are not full bodied and instead have a glaze applied to the surface which creates the design of the tile. These tiles are perfect for use in your home but the glaze may not be suitable for heavy traffic in public spaces.

Generally speaking all ceramic and porcelain tiles are very durable, water resistant, stain resistant, chemical resistant and easy to keep clean. Our support team is here to help if you want to understand the technical properties of a specific tile you are interested in. Contact us at sales@tilehaus.co.nz.